The different stages of a good life

The different stages of a good life

When I was in my teens and 20s my idea of travel were of traipsing around Europe staying in hostels and meeting new people. I was raised by someone who loved travel to exotic locales and who had traveled extensively so it was a natural fit. I did do some of that when I was younger and it was lovely.

Conversely, my paternal grandparents owned a condo in Florida and drove down in the winters where they stayed for 4-6 months a year. When I was younger the idea absolutely repulsed me: why bother going anywhere that you wouldn’t experience history, culture and art? I wanted new landscapes and new food and to meet new people! It confounded me that they had never left the continent and I couldn’t see the value in going to the same place year-after-year. I also never understood the concept of sitting on a beach all day. ZZZZZ…boring! Cruising? Well that was for the newly wed and the nearly dead!

Mr. Tucker and I ended up getting married in the Caribbean because my parents paid for it and one of them was very keen to plan it in a certain place on a certain beach. I was neutral on the place but we did end up having an amazing week. When we arrived Mr. Tucker and I sat on a beach for the first time with a drink and he turned to me and said, “NOW I get why people enjoy this so much!”

When I was in my 20s I also had dreamed of owning a country house with acreage where we would be self-sufficient so that we wouldn’t need to have as much of an income. I had been inspired by The Tightwad Gazette and books that Helen and Scott Nearing wrote. While Mr. Tucker and I sat in our 530sq ft condo downtown, we often would look at farms for sale. At one point we were even starting to look at properties that would fit the bill.

In the end, when I got pregnant with the eldest we ended up in a mid-century suburb having traded homes with a relative who also owned half of the condo. Mr. Tucker was not happy but this relative always wanted to retire in the condo so we sucked it up and moved into the house. It remains to this day the biggest fight we have ever had. Not all was lost though: we met some really great friends in that neighbourhood, people who we continue to be close with to this day. Unfortunately, the relative had told us that they would sell us the house at one price and then reneged on the deal because condo life hadn’t turned out the way they wanted it & they wanted their house back. They signed the condo over to me (we had invested a lot in the house) and we all know how that is going.

We ended up buying a new house also in a mid-century suburb because by the time we were forced to move, the shine on the country life had worn off. Our kids were 7 and 9 at the time and were used to the amenities of the city, I had a career, was investigating ongoing medical issues at the time, and we wanted the kids to stay in the same school system. Oh, and I did want a puddle.

We don’t regret the decision now that we are middle-aged and in retrospect a farm would have taken our lives in a completely different direction. We probably would have ended up back in the city anyway with my medical needs.

So what gives?

Age gives.
Mobility gives.
Finances give.
…and life changes.

You change.

It happens slowly over time but your ideas about the future change when it actually becomes the future. If we had pursued our dream of owning a farm and being self-sufficient it would have been disastrous when I became disabled. I probably wouldn’t had my career and with it the disability benefits that pay 70% of my pre-disability salary (indexed to inflation). It would have left us scrambling for money and resources. I am grateful that the dreams I had in my 20s didn’t come to fruition, it would have ruined my middle age.

We have also had multiple cruise vacations (you can’t hostel through the Panama Canal) and have a beach resort vacation planned for this winter. We have changed so substantially in the 21 years that we have been together.

Now, at 47, I even see why my grandparents bought a place in Florida: as you get older, the winters feel harsher, walking in the ice and snow becomes more dangerous and the lack of sun really affects you. Last year I read an article about Margaritaville in the New Yorker and I didn’t feel revulsion, it made complete sense! This isn’t to say that I am rushing out to buy a house there but it occurred to me that for a certain group of people living there is an absolute dream.

Mr. Tucker and I have been discussing our ideas of what a good life really is. We used to dream of him retiring early and us being able to take off and travel the world. But going to Puerto Rico in 2022 for two weeks was an absolute nightmare. Travel post-pandemic was a nightmare (4 hours to get through security in Toronto), when we got there it was a comedy of errors (bald tires on the rental, getting lost in the mountains, roaches in the hotel room, no restaurants open in the town we stayed in etc.) and it has since really turned Mr. Tucker off of travel. While we still laugh at the stories we have from that trip the sour taste still hasn’t been completely eliminated from his mouth.

The only reason I got Mr. Tucker to agree to a trip this winter is that it is a> a direct flight; b> an all-inclusive resort; c> he will theoretically be retired so he won’t have to leap back into work if it is a horrible experience. Our trip in 2022 felt to him like work and then he had to jump right back into work when he got back.

Life is a series of experiences and those experiences lead to change about what you consider a good life. 14-year-old me loved go to the mall and shop for name brand clothes I could show off to my friends. I couldn’t have imagined ever NOT wanting to go shopping when I was that age. 47-year-old me avoids the mall like the plague. I also hate the idea of more stuff to clean, maintain and store. Impressing other people also holds no interest for me. Age is also why driving down to Florida for a month in the winter becomes more appealing over time as flying has become more hostile, post-pandemic. Getting to the airport early and dealing with delayed or canceled flights seems like more of a nightmare than just driving and taking our time. 24-year-old adventurous travel me is not 47-year-old mobility-impaired me. We are completely different people with different needs, goals and desires.

This isn’t to say that we wont fly places and travel more when good deals come up, I am just saying that I finally understand why people enjoy different types of travel. For our future travel, it may just look more tempered and less adventurous. When Mr. Tucker retires we will still have 5 years until the last kid turns 18 so a lot of that time will be spent staying home. Next year the eldest will be in grade 11 (here the biggest years to get into university rely on your grades for 11&12) so we won’t be able to pull her out of school to take advantage of a good travel deal. Also, the kids will be working in the summer so travel will be out during summer holidays as well.

Recently, Mr. Tucker and I were discussing how excited we both were to build new gaming computers this November. He got pensive for a minute and then said, “you know what? Even if we never traveled again, I would be ok with that. I like that we have our little house that has everything we need and we have a really good life right here.” To be honest, I have to agree. We have SEEN a lot and DONE a lot and if we never get to travel again we will have still done more travel than most people. Having a cozy little life with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, time to work on our hobbies and see our friends IS a good life. A very good life, indeed. And that is enough.

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